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August 30, 2012

Your Vehicle Is In Danger of Being Hacked by Computer Viruses

Computers and electronic communication systems that are installed in today's modern vehicles have the hazard of being hacked. Intel's McAfee, one of the best known software companies that fight PC viruses, is currently working to protect these computer and communication systems so that viruses can not affect your modern vehicle.

Automakers have failed to adequately protect these systems, leaving them vulnerable to hacks by attackers looking to steal cars, eavesdrop on personal conversations and even harm passengers by causing vehicles to crash automatically.

According to the SAE International, no violent attacks using computer viruses have been reported to date.

These viruses, worms and Trojans can be delivered to your automobile through onboard diagnostics systems, wireless connections and even tainted CDs played on radio systems.

The concern for automobile computers and electronic communication systems being hacked came from research conducted by a group of computer scientists from the University of California and the University of Washington, who published two research papers, in May and August of 2011, showing that computer viruses can infect cars and cause them to crash, harming both the driver and passengers. This group of computer scientists figured out how to attack vehicles by putting viruses onto compact discs. When victims try to listen to the CD, the vehicle is infected through the car radio and can make its way across the network and other vehicle systems. One of their examples is an attack called "Self Destruct". This is when a 60 second timer pops up on a car's digital dashboard and starts counting down. When it reaches zero the virus can immediately shut off the vehicle's lights, lock its doors, turn the engine off and release or slam on the brakes.

Therefore; the SAE's Vehicle Electrical System Security Committee, a committee of more than 40 industry experts, is working hard to develop specifications which would reduce the risk of vehicles being infected with viruses.

July 29, 2010

A Defective Electronic Circuit is the Cause of the Metro Crash of June 22, 2009

Metro Crash.jpgThe National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), announced on July 27, 2010, that it had completed its investigation into the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) train crash of June 22, 2009.

The crash occurred around 5pm. Two red line trains were involved. One train slammed in to the back of another train, outside the Fort Totten Station, in Washington, D.C.. The rear train, which was traveling at a high rate of speed, crashed into the rear of the front train and was propelled about 65 feet into the air and landed on the front train. Many people were ejected from the rear train and nine people, including the operator of the rear train died on impact.

The cause of the crash was determined to be a defective electronic circuit and negligent safety standards. The defective track circuit modules cause the automatic train control (ATC) to lose detection of the trains traveling on the red line track. The circuit is responsible for maintaining a safe distance between trains traveling on the same track. This circuit began to lose its ability to detect trains on the track and therefore the trains collided, because there was not enough time for the rear train to stop before crashing into the front train. The crash could have been avoided had the necessary verification tests, that were developed in 2005, had been conducted. Had this test been used, the system failure would have been detected and the lives of the 9 victims could have been spared.

Furthermore, WMATA's failure to replace and retrofit its 1000- series rail cars (cars involved in the crash) was also determined to be a cause of the crash. WMATA failed to replace these cars, despite knowing they rated poorly, when it came to crashworthiness.

Metro Crash 2.jpgNumerous accident injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against WMATA as a result of the crash. Our office specifically is representing 2 parties injured in this crash.

Deborah Hersman, Chairman of the NTSB said, "Our hope is that the lessons learned from this accident will be not only a catalyst for change at WMATA, but also the cornerstone of a greater effort to establish a federal role in oversight and safety standards for rail transit systems across the nation."